Alex Blasdel

Root & Branch

Barkskins

By Annie Proulx

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Alexis de Tocqueville turned twenty-six in July 1831, somewhere amid the vast wilderness of America’s Michigan Territory. He had spent the past days travelling through a wood dominated by white pines rising ‘straight as a ship’s mast’ over forty metres high. The forest had heady, contradictory effects on the young man. ‘In but few years these impenetrable forests will have fallen … Thoughts of the savage, natural grandeur that is going to come to an end become mingled with splendid anticipations of the triumphant march of civilisation. One feels proud to be a man, and yet at the same time one experiences I cannot say what bitter regret at the power that God has granted us over nature.’

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